Reporting from the front line at Tesco

tescocheckoutqueue23dec08 It seemed a good idea – visit our nearest 24-hour Tesco store at about 10pm so as to pick up some essentials.

We thought it made good sense instead of doing that today when undoubtedly stores everywhere will surely be packed with last-minute Christmas shoppers.

So into Tesco Reading we go last night, and what a sorry experience it was.

The place was packed. Car park almost full and with one large remote area without lighting. It seemed as if the whole of Berkshire was in the store.

Imagine: a packed supermarket, not that many visible store staff around other than the shelf stackers with their enormous cages blocking some aisles, and a general air of chaos.

This supermarket has 35 checkouts, yet I could see only 10 actually open when we got to the checkout line.

Some kind of law of averages, I suppose: the more people queuing for the checkout, the less checkouts there are that are open. More like Murphy’s Law.

So we joined a queue, which took 25 minutes before we reached the actual checkout operator (a stalwart young lady with good people skills and a terrific sense of humour).

All was not wasted in the queue, though – to while away the time, I started twittering with my online buddies :)

As I was keeping up a flow of Twitter reporting from the Tesco front line, a request came from Podnosh:

Can you perhaps make a podcast whilst you’re waiting to pay?

Good idea, I thought, especially as I had the iPhone with me on which I had installed Griffin iTalk, recommended by CC Chapman, a friend and great podcaster. A good opportunity to try it out.

The demeanour of most surrounding me in the queue for the checkout didn’t seem conducive to some vox pop-style interviews, so I settled for a quick commentary.

You can listen to or download the MP3 here (0.7Mb, 1:40).

Impressive audio quality, don’t you think? After converting the native iTalk AIFF  recording to WAV, the only editing I’ve done to is run that file through The Levelator and then output that file to MP3.

I wouldn’t plan to use this for general out-and-about recording for podcasts (for that, I’ll stick with my Microtrack 24/96), although for casual short recordings such as the one I did at Tesco, it’s pretty good.

The Griffin iTalk app is free, available from the iTunes App Store (there’s also the iTalk Premium at $4.99, which is ad free). Recording audio is a breeze – run the app, click the big on-screen button, talk, click the button again to stop. Dead simple.

To make use of your recording (such as I’ve done as a podcast), you need to get the audio file onto your computer. For that, you need the free iTalk Sync (versions for PC and Mac) which your run on your computer that connects to your iPhone via your wifi connection and lets you copy over your files.

Once you have the audio file on your computer, you can then do whatever you want with it. A neat and enjoyable experience.

Which is more than I can say about Tesco in Reading last night.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. neville

    Usually I'd do the conversion from AIFF to WAV with Adobe Audition 3. But instead I used a nifty and quick app called Switch Audio File Converter. Free, runs on Windows.

    Long time since I used Audacity but, from recollection, it does open AIFF files which you can then save in other formats, eg WAV.

    As to why do the conversion at all (in case you were wondering), the reason was that Levelator only supports WAV files.

  2. neville

    That's the strongest impression I had about Tesco last night, Neil – poor store management. It was like they woke up yesterday and thought OMG, it's Christmas!

  3. neville

    That would definitely not have been good, Chris.

    One thing I've noticed is that supermarkets seem to block cellular signals inside the stores. At Tesco last night, for instance, the only time I got any kind of signal was when in the checkout queue which is at the front of the store. And which is when I actually needed a signal :)

  4. Chris


    Great they are open all round the clock though eh, I like that.

    I went to ASDA at 4am a month ago, on the way to the new birth of our daughter, having had the call, almost missed it too, due to browsing the isles – would not have gone down well!

  5. Graham Holland

    It reminded me of one of those news reports from the front line of an overseas conflict. You were very brave, my friend!

  6. Neil Chapman

    Some stores have been strangely quiet, some have been as busy as usual. Sounds like Tesco was the latter. It seems Christmas catches the management of some places by surprise, not enough staff, no system of restocking or no clue how to help customers either in their stores or outside.

  7. davebriggs

    Thanks Neville! Having now downloaded the iPhone app I'll give Audacity a go. I already use Levelator, which is a great app. Sorry, but another question – which audio player plugin do you use? I really like the look of it.

  8. C.C. Chapman

    Sounds really good. I'm a big fan of this product because it means I don't have to bring along another recorder and it allows me to record anywhere I am since my phone is always with me. Happy holidays!

  9. Bryan Person

    Neville, the quality of this recording is remarkably good! Thanks for continuing to share the cool tools you're discovering and using. Time to add this one to my iPhone, too!

    Enjoy that booze — and Christmas!

    Bryan | @BryanPerson

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